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Article of Interest - Education

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Bridges4Kids LogoSystem Keeps Schools in Touch With Parents
by Helen Gao, The Los Angeles Daily News, October 27, 2003
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After a gunbattle erupted near Stevenson Ranch Elementary School in Santa Clarita two years ago and left two people dead, administrators evacuated the school and scrambled to contact parents to pick up their children.

They relied on word of mouth, handmade signs and a phone tree to reach parents.

That wasn't fast enough for administrators. So Stevenson Ranch Elementary did what 250 other schools in Southern California have done: They contracted a private company to provide a high-tech communication system that enables the school to send voice messages to parents instantaneously.

"I am sure it would have helped put parents' minds at ease to have heard directly from the principal," said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger, who said he wished he had the system in place during the Stevenson Ranch shootout. "We (had) parents frantically calling the school and coming to the school."

Newhall campuses are among 750 schools nationwide that subscribe to the communication service provided by The Partnership for Academic and Community Excellence, a company founded by Studio City parent Bennett Liss. PACE, which serves 1.2 million students, is considered a leader in the emerging field of school-to-parent communication technology.

PACE enables schools to log on to a computer and send out a prerecorded voice message in multiple languages to multiple emergency contact numbers submitted by parents, without having to install expensive equipment. Typically, schools have to pull emergency contact cards and dial numbers by hand -- a time-consuming process.

As a result of PACE's simplicity, the automated program -- described as a mini-Amber Alert -- is rapidly gaining popularity, especially in elementary schools, where students are too young to bring cell phones to school.

"I am amazed at the technology. It provides us an opportunity to get a single uniform message out to all parents in a given school or district," said Winger, noting he can call 6,700 parents in three minutes.

Newhall started using PACE in August for the first time to notify parents of back-to-school night. The system was successful in reaching 95 percent to 98 percent of the district's parents.

Lanai Road Elementary and Coldwater Canyon Elementary in North Hollywood are among some of the schools in the San Fernando Valley that have also signed up for PACE.

    

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